When a ministry opportunity or project is identified, it shall be clearly described. All possible evidence is gathered and made available to those who will be engaged in the deliberation. Then the process begins. In brief, it includes the following steps.

  1. A period of meditation and prayer seeking openness to and guidance from the Spirit.
  2. The sharing of “cons” as each person reports the reasons he or she discerns against moving in a particular direction.
  3. A period of prayer allowing time to reflect on the seriousness of the “cons” that have been shared.
  4. A sharing of “pros,” as each person reports his own personal discernment. If no clear consensus emerges, the process continues.
  5. A period of prayer allowing time for reflection upon the “pros.”
  6. An effort to sort out and weigh the reasons behind the pros and cons, recording those reasons so that they are available to all, and to discern communally, in the light of what has been listed, the direction to which the community is called by God. In commenting on this aspect of the process, Father Futrell writes, “…if the conditions of authentic communal discernment have been fulfilled (i.e., if there is genuine openness to the Spirit), the decision should be made clear, and confirmation should be experienced unanimously through shared deep peace… finding God together.” (John Futrell, S.J. “Communal Discernment: Reflections on Experience, ” Studies in the Spirituality of the Jesuits IV, no. 5 {November 19721: 173.)
  7. A concluding prayer of thanksgiving and the reaffirmation of corporate commitment to carrying out the decision.

At first glance, such a process seems unduly long for the everyday decisions that take place within the life of a parish. That would depend, of course, on the time given to each step.

(From James C. Fenhagen, Ministry and Solitude. New York: The Seabury Press, 1981)



  • I agree
  • I don’t fully agree but I can live with it.
  • I don’t agree, but I can live with it.


  • I don’t agree and I can’t live with it.